Amy Lowell
Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925)
American poetess

A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass

LYRICAL POEMS

Amy Lowell

Before the Altar


Before the Altar, bowed, he stands 
With empty hands; 
Upon it perfumed offerings burn 
Wreathing with smoke the sacrificial urn. 
Not one of all these has he given, 
No flame of his has leapt to Heaven 
Firesouled, vermilion-hearted, 
Forked, and darted, 
Consuming what a few spare pence 
Have cheaply bought, to fling from hence 
In idly-asked petition. 

His sole condition 
Love and poverty. 
And while the moon 
Swings slow across the sky, 
Athwart a waving pine tree, 
And soon 
Tips all the needles there 
With silver sparkles, bitterly 
He gazes, while his soul 
Grows hard with thinking of the poorness of his dole.

"Shining and distant Goddess, hear my prayer 
Where you swim in the high air! 
With charity look down on me, 
Under this tree, 
Tending the gifts I have not brought, 
The rare and goodly things 
I have not sought. 
Instead, take from me all my life! 

"Upon the wings 
Of shimmering moonbeams 
I pack my poet's dreams 
For you. 
My wearying strife, 
My courage, my loss, 
Into the night I toss 
For you. 
Golden Divinity, 
Deign to look down on me 
Who so unworthily 
Offers to you: 
All life has known, 
Seeds withered unsown, 
Hopes turning quick to fears, 
Laughter which dies in tears. 
The shredded remnant of a man 
Is all the span 
And compass of my offering to you. 

"Empty and silent, I 
Kneel before your pure, calm majesty. 
On this stone, in this urn 
I pour my heart and watch it burn, 
Myself the sacrifice; but be 
Still unmoved: Divinity." 

From the altar, bathed in moonlight, 
The smoke rose straight in the quiet night.

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Suggested by the Cover of a Volume
of Keats's Poems


Wild little bird, who chose thee for a sign 
To put upon the cover of this book? 
Who heard thee singing in the distance dim, 
The vague, far greenness of the enshrouding wood, 
When the damp freshness of the morning earth 
Was full of pungent sweetness and thy song? 

Who followed over moss and twisted roots, 
And pushed through the wet leaves of trailing vines 
Where slanting sunbeams gleamed uncertainly, 
While ever clearer came the dropping notes, 
Until, at last, two widening trunks disclosed 
Thee singing on a spray of branching beech, 
Hidden, then seen; and always that same song 
Of joyful sweetness, rapture incarnate, 
Filled the hushed, rustling stillness of the wood? 

We do not know what bird thou art. Perhaps 
That fairy bird, fabled in island tale, 
Who never sings but once, and then his song 
Is of such fearful beauty that he dies 
From sheer exuberance of melody. 

For this they took thee, little bird, for this 
They captured thee, tilting among the leaves, 
And stamped thee for a symbol on this book. 
For it contains a song surpassing thine, 
Richer, more sweet, more poignant. And the poet 
Who felt this burning beauty, and whose heart 
Was full of loveliest things, sang all he knew 
A little while, and then he died; too frail 
To bear this untamed, passionate burst of song.

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Apples of Hesperides


Glinting golden through the trees, 
 Apples of Hesperides! 
Through the moon-pierced warp of night 
Shoot pale shafts of yellow light, 
Swaying to the kissing breeze 
Swings the treasure, golden-gleaming, 
 Apples of Hesperides! 

Far and lofty yet they glimmer, 
 Apples of Hesperides! 
Blinded by their radiant shimmer, 
Pushing forward just for these; 
Dew-besprinkled, bramble-marred, 
Poor duped mortal, travel-scarred, 
Always thinking soon to seize 
And possess the golden-glistening 
 Apples of Hesperides! 

Orbed, and glittering, and pendent, 
 Apples of Hesperides! 
Not one missing, still transcendent, 
Clustering like a swarm of bees. 
Yielding to no man's desire, 
Glowing with a saffron fire, 
Splendid, unassailed, the golden 
 Apples of Hesperides!

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Azure and Gold


April had covered the hills 
 With flickering yellows and reds, 
The sparkle and coolness of snow 
 Was blown from the mountain beds. 

Across a deep-sunken stream 
 The pink of blossoming trees, 
And from windless appleblooms 
 The humming of many bees. 

The air was of rose and gold 
 Arabesqued with the song of birds 
Who, swinging unseen under leaves, 
 Made music more eager than words. 

Of a sudden, aslant the road, 
 A brightness to dazzle and stun, 
A glint of the bluest blue, 
 A flash from a sapphire sun. 

Blue-birds so blue, 't was a dream, 
 An impossible, unconceived hue, 
The high sky of summer dropped down 
 Some rapturous ocean to woo. 

Such a colour, such infinite light! 
 The heart of a fabulous gem, 
Many-faceted, brilliant and rare. 
 Centre Stone of the earth's diadem! 

Centre Stone of the Crown of the World, 
 "Sincerity" graved on your youth! 
And your eyes hold the blue-bird flash, 
 The sapphire shaft, which is truth.

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Petals


Life is a stream 
On which we strew 
Petal by petal the flower of our heart; 
The end lost in dream, 
They float past our view, 
We only watch their glad, early start. 

Freighted with hope, 
Crimsoned with joy, 
We scatter the leaves of our opening rose; 
Their widening scope, 
Their distant employ, 
We never shall know. And the stream as it flows 
Sweeps them away, 
Each one is gone 
Ever beyond into infinite ways. 
We alone stay 
While years hurry on, 
The flower fared forth, though its fragrance still stays.

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Venetian Glass


As one who sails upon a wide, blue sea 
Far out of sight of land, his mind intent 
Upon the sailing of his little boat, 
On tightening ropes and shaping fair his course, 
Hears suddenly, across the restless sea, 
The rhythmic striking of some towered clock, 
And wakes from thoughtless idleness to time: 
Time, the slow pulse which beats eternity! 
So through the vacancy of busy life 
At intervals you cross my path and bring 
The deep solemnity of passing years. 
For you I have shed bitter tears, for you 
I have relinquished that for which my heart 
Cried out in selfish longing. And to-night 
Having just left you, I can say: "'T is well. 
Thank God that I have known a soul so true, 
So nobly just, so worthy to be loved!"

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Fatigue


Stupefy my heart to every day's monotony, 
 Seal up my eyes, I would not look so far, 
Chasten my steps to peaceful regularity, 
 Bow down my head lest I behold a star. 

Fill my days with work, a thousand calm necessities 
 Leaving no moment to consecrate to hope, 
Girdle my thoughts within the dull circumferences 
 Of facts which form the actual in one short hour's scope. 

Give me dreamless sleep, and loose night's power over me, 
 Shut my ears to sounds only tumultuous then, 
Bid Fancy slumber, and steal away its potency, 
 Or Nature wakes and strives to live again. 

Let each day pass, well ordered in its usefulness, 
 Unlit by sunshine, unscarred by storm; 
Dower me with strength and curb all foolish eagerness -- 
 The law exacts obedience. Instruct, I will conform.

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A Japanese Wood-Carving


High up above the open, welcoming door 
It hangs, a piece of wood with colours dim. 
Once, long ago, it was a waving tree 
And knew the sun and shadow through the leaves 
Of forest trees, in a thick eastern wood. 
The winter snows had bent its branches down, 
The spring had swelled its buds with coming flowers, 
Summer had run like fire through its veins, 
While autumn pelted it with chestnut burrs, 
And strewed the leafy ground with acorn cups. 
Dark midnight storms had roared and crashed among 
Its branches, breaking here and there a limb; 
But every now and then broad sunlit days 
Lovingly lingered, caught among the leaves. 
Yes, it had known all this, and yet to us 
It does not speak of mossy forest ways, 
Of whispering pine trees or the shimmering birch; 
But of quick winds, and the salt, stinging sea! 
An artist once, with patient, careful knife, 
Had fashioned it like to the untamed sea. 
Here waves uprear themselves, their tops blown back 
By the gay, sunny wind, which whips the blue 
And breaks it into gleams and sparks of light. 
Among the flashing waves are two white birds 
Which swoop, and soar, and scream for very joy 
At the wild sport. Now diving quickly in, 
Questing some glistening fish. Now flying up, 
Their dripping feathers shining in the sun, 
While the wet drops like little glints of light, 
Fall pattering backward to the parent sea. 
Gliding along the green and foam-flecked hollows, 
Or skimming some white crest about to break, 
The spirits of the sky deigning to stoop 
And play with ocean in a summer mood. 
Hanging above the high, wide open door, 
It brings to us in quiet, firelit room, 
The freedom of the earth's vast solitudes, 
Where heaping, sunny waves tumble and roll, 
And seabirds scream in wanton happiness. 

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A Little Song


When you, my Dear, are away, away, 
How wearily goes the creeping day. 
A year drags after morning, and night 
Starts another year of candle light. 
O Pausing Sun and Lingering Moon! 
Grant me, I beg of you, this boon. 

Whirl round the earth as never sun 
Has his diurnal journey run. 
And, Moon, slip past the ladders of air 
In a single flash, while your streaming hair 
Catches the stars and pulls them down 
To shine on some slumbering Chinese town. 
O Kindly Sun! Understanding Moon! 
Bring evening to crowd the footsteps of noon. 

But when that long awaited day 
Hangs ripe in the heavens, your voyaging stay. 
Be morning, O Sun! with the lark in song, 
Be afternoon for ages long. 
And, Moon, let you and your lesser lights 
Watch over a century of nights.

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Behind a Wall


I own a solace shut within my heart, 
 A garden full of many a quaint delight 
 And warm with drowsy, poppied sunshine; bright, 
Flaming with lilies out of whose cups dart 
    Shining things 
    With powdered wings. 

Here terrace sinks to terrace, arbors close 
 The ends of dreaming paths; a wanton wind 
 Jostles the half-ripe pears, and then, unkind, 
Tumbles a-slumber in a pillar rose, 
    With content 
    Grown indolent. 

By night my garden is o'erhung with gems 
 Fixed in an onyx setting. Fireflies 
 Flicker their lanterns in my dazzled eyes. 
In serried rows I guess the straight, stiff stems 
    Of hollyhocks 
    Against the rocks. 

So far and still it is that, listening, 
 I hear the flowers talking in the dawn; 
 And where a sunken basin cuts the lawn, 
Cinctured with iris, pale and glistening, 
    The sudden swish 
    Of a waking fish.

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A Winter Ride


Who shall declare the joy of the running! 
 Who shall tell of the pleasures of flight! 
Springing and spurning the tufts of wild heather, 
 Sweeping, wide-winged, through the blue dome of light. 
Everything mortal has moments immortal, 
 Swift and God-gifted, immeasurably bright. 

So with the stretch of the white road before me, 
 Shining snowcrystals rainbowed by the sun, 
Fields that are white, stained with long, cool, blue shadows, 
 Strong with the strength of my horse as we run. 
Joy in the touch of the wind and the sunlight! 
 Joy! With the vigorous earth I am one.

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A Coloured Print by Shokei


It winds along the face of a cliff 
 This path which I long to explore, 
And over it dashes a waterfall, 
 And the air is full of the roar 
And the thunderous voice of waters which sweep 
In a silver torrent over some steep. 

It clears the path with a mighty bound 
 And tumbles below and away, 
And the trees and the bushes which grow in the rocks 
 Are wet with its jewelled spray; 
The air is misty and heavy with sound, 
And small, wet wildflowers star the ground. 

Oh! The dampness is very good to smell, 
 And the path is soft to tread, 
And beyond the fall it winds up and on, 
 While little streamlets thread 
Their own meandering way down the hill 
Each singing its own little song, until 

I forget that 't is only a pictured path, 
 And I hear the water and wind, 
And look through the mist, and strain my eyes 
 To see what there is behind; 
For it must lead to a happy land, 
This little path by a waterfall spanned.

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Song


Oh! To be a flower 
 Nodding in the sun, 
Bending, then upspringing 
 As the breezes run; 
Holding up 
A scent-brimmed cup, 
 Full of summer's fragrance to the summer sun. 

Oh! To be a butterfly 
 Still, upon a flower, 
Winking with its painted wings, 
 Happy in the hour. 
Blossoms hold 
Mines of gold 
 Deep within the farthest heart of each chaliced flower. 

Oh! To be a cloud 
 Blowing through the blue, 
Shadowing the mountains, 
 Rushing loudly through 
Valleys deep 
Where torrents keep 
 Always their plunging thunder and their misty arch of blue. 

Oh! To be a wave 
 Splintering on the sand, 
Drawing back, but leaving 
 Lingeringly the land. 
Rainbow light 
Flashes bright 
 Telling tales of coral caves half hid in yellow sand. 

Soon they die, the flowers; 
 Insects live a day; 
Clouds dissolve in showers; 
 Only waves at play 
Last forever. 
Shall endeavor 
 Make a sea of purpose mightier than we dream to-day?

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The Fool Errant


The Fool Errant sat by the highway of life 
 And his gaze wandered up and his gaze wandered down, 
A vigorous youth, but with no wish to walk, 
 Yet his longing was great for the distant town. 

He whistled a little frivolous tune 
 Which he felt to be pulsing with ecstasy, 
For he thought that success always followed desire, 
 Such a very superlative fool was he. 

A maiden came by on an ambling mule, 
 Her gown was rose-red and her kerchief blue, 
On her lap she carried a basket of eggs. 
 Thought the fool, "There is certainly room for two." 

So he jauntily swaggered towards the maid 
 And put out his hand to the bridle-rein. 
"My pretty girl," quoth the fool, "take me up, 
 For to ride with you to the town I am fain." 

But the maiden struck at his upraised arm 
 And pelted him hotly with eggs, a score. 
The mule, lashed into a fury, ran; 
 The fool went back to his stone and swore. 

Then out of the cloud of settling dust 
 The burly form of an abbot appeared, 
Reading his office he rode to the town. 
 And the fool got up, for his heart was cheered. 

He stood in the midst of the long, white road 
 And swept off his cap till it touched the ground. 
"Ah, Reverent Sir, well met," said the fool, 
 "A worthier transport never was found. 

"I pray you allow me to mount with you, 
 Your palfrey seems both sturdy and young." 
The abbot looked up from the holy book 
 And cried out in anger, "Hold your tongue! 

"How dare you obstruct the King's highroad, 
 You saucy varlet, get out of my way." 
Then he gave the fool a cut with his whip 
 And leaving him smarting, he rode away. 

The fool was angry, the fool was sore, 
 And he cursed the folly of monks and maids. 
"If I could but meet with a man," sighed the fool, 
 "For a woman fears, and a friar upbraids." 

Then he saw a flashing of distant steel 
 And the clanking of harness greeted his ears, 
And up the road journeyed knights-at-arms, 
 With waving plumes and glittering spears. 

The fool took notice and slowly arose, 
 Not quite so sure was his foolish heart. 
If priests and women would none of him 
 Was it likely a knight would take his part? 

They sang as they rode, these lusty boys, 
 When one chanced to turn toward the highway's side, 
"There's a sorry figure of fun," jested he, 
 "Well, Sirrah! move back, there is scarce room to ride." 

"Good Sirs, Kind Sirs," begged the crestfallen fool, 
 "I pray of your courtesy speech with you, 
I'm for yonder town, and have no horse to ride, 
 Have you never a charger will carry two?" 

Then the company halted and laughed out loud. 
 "Was such a request ever made to a knight?" 
"And where are your legs," asked one, "if you start, 
 You may be inside the town gates to-night." 

"'T is a lazy fellow, let him alone, 
 They've no room in the town for such idlers as he." 
But one bent from his saddle and said, "My man, 
 Art thou not ashamed to beg charity! 

"Thou art well set up, and thy legs are strong, 
 But it much misgives me lest thou'rt a fool; 
For beggars get only a beggar's crust, 
 Wise men are reared in a different school." 

Then they clattered away in the dust and the wind, 
 And the fool slunk back to his lonely stone; 
He began to see that the man who asks 
 Must likewise give and not ask alone. 

Purple tree-shadows crept over the road, 
 The level sun flung an orange light, 
And the fool laid his head on the hard, gray stone 
 And wept as he realized advancing night. 

A great, round moon rose over a hill 
 And the steady wind blew yet more cool; 
And crouched on a stone a wayfarer sobbed, 
 For at last he knew he was only a fool.

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The Green Bowl


This little bowl is like a mossy pool 
In a Spring wood, where dogtooth violets grow 
Nodding in chequered sunshine of the trees; 
A quiet place, still, with the sound of birds, 
Where, though unseen, is heard the endless song 
And murmur of the never resting sea. 
'T was winter, Roger, when you made this cup, 
But coming Spring guided your eager hand 
And round the edge you fashioned young green leaves, 
A proper chalice made to hold the shy 
And little flowers of the woods. And here 
They will forget their sad uprooting, lost 
In pleasure that this circle of bright leaves 
Should be their setting; once more they will dream 
They hear winds wandering through lofty trees 
And see the sun smiling between the leaves.

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Hora Stellatrix


The stars hang thick in the apple tree, 
The south wind smells of the pungent sea, 
Gold tulip cups are heavy with dew. 
The night's for you, Sweetheart, for you! 
Starfire rains from the vaulted blue. 

Listen! The dancing of unseen leaves. 
A drowsy swallow stirs in the eaves. 
Only a maiden is sorrowing. 
'T is night and spring, Sweetheart, and spring! 
Starfire lights your heart's blossoming. 

In the intimate dark there's never an ear, 
Though the tulips stand on tiptoe to hear, 
So give; ripe fruit must shrivel or fall. 
As you are mine, Sweetheart, give all! 
Starfire sparkles, your coronal.

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Fragment


What is poetry? Is it a mosaic 
 Of coloured stones which curiously are wrought 
 Into a pattern? Rather glass that's taught 
By patient labor any hue to take 
And glowing with a sumptuous splendor, make 
 Beauty a thing of awe; where sunbeams caught, 
 Transmuted fall in sheafs of rainbows fraught 
With storied meaning for religion's sake. 

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Loon Point


Softly the water ripples 
 Against the canoe's curving side, 
Softly the birch trees rustle 
 Flinging over us branches wide. 

Softly the moon glints and glistens 
 As the water takes and leaves, 
Like golden ears of corn 
 Which fall from loose-bound sheaves, 

Or like the snow-white petals 
 Which drop from an overblown rose, 
When Summer ripens to Autumn 
 And the freighted year must close. 

From the shore come the scents of a garden, 
 And between a gap in the trees 
A proud white statue glimmers 
 In cold, disdainful ease. 

The child of a southern people, 
 The thought of an alien race, 
What does she in this pale, northern garden, 
 How reconcile it with her grace? 

But the moon in her wayward beauty 
 Is ever and always the same, 
As lovely as when upon Latmos 
 She watched till Endymion came. 

Through the water the moon writes her legends 
 In light, on the smooth, wet sand; 
They endure for a moment, and vanish, 
 And no one may understand. 

All round us the secret of Nature 
 Is telling itself to our sight, 
We may guess at her meaning but never 
 Can know the full mystery of night. 

But her power of enchantment is on us, 
 We bow to the spell which she weaves, 
Made up of the murmur of waves 
 And the manifold whisper of leaves.

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Summer


Some men there are who find in nature all 
Their inspiration, hers the sympathy 
Which spurs them on to any great endeavor, 
To them the fields and woods are closest friends, 
And they hold dear communion with the hills; 
The voice of waters soothes them with its fall, 
And the great winds bring healing in their sound. 
To them a city is a prison house 
Where pent up human forces labour and strive, 
Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man; 
But where in winter they must live until 
Summer gives back the spaces of the hills. 
To me it is not so. I love the earth 
And all the gifts of her so lavish hand: 
Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds, 
Thick branches swaying in a winter storm, 
And moonlight playing in a boat's wide wake; 
But more than these, and much, ah, how much more, 
I love the very human heart of man. 
Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky, 
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake 
Lazily reflecting back the sun, 
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze 
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns. 
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops 
The green crest of the hill on which I sit; 
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer, 
The very crown of nature's changing year 
When all her surging life is at its full. 
To me alone it is a time of pause, 
A void and silent space between two worlds, 
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps, 
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come. 
For life alone is creator of life, 
And closest contact with the human world 
Is like a lantern shining in the night 
To light me to a knowledge of myself. 
I love the vivid life of winter months 
In constant intercourse with human minds, 
When every new experience is gain 
And on all sides we feel the great world's heart; 
The pulse and throb of life which makes us men! 

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To-morrow to Fresh Woods
and Pastures New


As for a moment he stands, in hardy masculine beauty, 
Poised on the fircrested rock, over the pool which below him 
Gleams in the wavering sunlight, waiting the shock of his plunging. 
So for a moment I stand, my feet planted firm in the present, 
Eagerly scanning the future which is so soon to possess me.

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The Way

 
At first a mere thread of a footpath half blotted out by the grasses 
Sweeping triumphant across it, it wound between hedges of roses 
Whose blossoms were poised above leaves as pond lilies float on the water, 
While hidden by bloom in a hawthorn a bird filled the morning with singing. 

It widened a highway, majestic, stretching ever to distant horizons, 
Where shadows of tree-branches wavered, vague outlines invaded by sunshine; 
No sound but the wind as it whispered the secrets of earth to the flowers, 
And the hum of the yellow bees, honey-laden and dusty with pollen. 
And Summer said, "Come, follow onward, with no thought 
save the longing to wander, 
The wind, and the bees, and the flowers, all singing the great song of Nature, 
Are minstrels of change and of promise, they herald the joy of the Future." 

Later the solitude vanished, confused and distracted the road 
Where many were seeking and jostling. Left behind were the trees 
and the flowers, 
The half-realized beauty of quiet, the sacred unconscious communing. 
And now he is come to a river, a line of gray, sullen water, 
Not blue and splashing, but dark, rolling somberly on to the ocean. 
But on the far side is a city whose windows flame gold in the sunset. 
It lies fair and shining before him, a gem set betwixt sky and water, 
And spanning the river a bridge, frail promise to longing desire, 
Flung by man in his infinite courage, across the stern force of the water; 
And he looks at the river and fears, the bridge is so slight, yet he ventures 
His life to its fragile keeping, if it fails the waves will engulf him. 
O Arches! be strong to uphold him, and bear him across to the city, 
The beautiful city whose spires still glow with the fires of sunset! 

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Diya


Look, Dear, how bright the moonlight is to-night! 
See where it casts the shadow of that tree 
Far out upon the grass. And every gust 
Of light night wind comes laden with the scent 
Of opening flowers which never bloom by day: 
Night-scented stocks, and four-o'clocks, and that 
Pale yellow disk, upreared on its tall stalk, 
The evening primrose, comrade of the stars. 
It seems as though the garden which you love 
Were like a swinging censer, its incense 
Floating before us as a reverent act 
To sanctify and bless our night of love. 
Tell me once more you love me, that 't is you 
Yes, really you, I touch, so, with my hand; 
And tell me it is by your own free will 
That you are here, and that you like to be 
Just here, with me, under this sailing pine. 
I need to hear it often for my heart 
Doubts naturally, and finds it hard to trust. 
Ah, Dearest, you are good to love me so, 
And yet I would not have it goodness, rather 
Excess of selfishness in you to need 
Me through and through, as flowers need the sun. 
I wonder can it really be that you 
And I are here alone, and that the night 
Is full of hours, and all the world asleep, 
And none can call to you to come away; 
For you have given all yourself to me 
Making me gentle by your willingness. 
Has your life too been waiting for this time, 
Not only mine the sharpness of this joy? 
Dear Heart, I love you, worship you as though 
I were a priest before a holy shrine. 
I'm glad that you are beautiful, although 
Were you not lovely still I needs must love; 
But you are all things, it must have been so 
For otherwise it were not you. Come, close; 
When you are in the circle of my arm 
Faith grows a mountain and I take my stand 
Upon its utmost top. Yes, yes, once more 
Kiss me, and let me feel you very near 
Wanting me wholly, even as I want you. 
Have years behind been dark? Will those to come 
Bring unguessed sorrows into our two lives? 
What does it matter, we have had to-night! 
To-night will make us strong, for we believe 
Each in the other, this is a sacrament. 
Beloved, is it true?

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Roads


I know a country laced with roads, 
 They join the hills and they span the brooks, 
They weave like a shuttle between broad fields, 
 And slide discreetly through hidden nooks. 
They are canopied like a Persian dome 
 And carpeted with orient dyes. 
They are myriad-voiced, and musical, 
 And scented with happiest memories. 
O Winding roads that I know so well, 
 Every twist and turn, every hollow and hill! 
They are set in my heart to a pulsing tune 
 Gay as a honey-bee humming in June. 
'T is the rhythmic beat of a horse's feet 
 And the pattering paws of a sheep-dog bitch; 
'T is the creaking trees, and the singing breeze, 
 And the rustle of leaves in the road-side ditch. 

A cow in a meadow shakes her bell 
 And the notes cut sharp through the autumn air, 
Each chattering brook bears a fleet of leaves 
 Their cargo the rainbow, and just now where 
 The sun splashed bright on the road ahead 
A startled rabbit quivered and fled. 
 O Uphill roads and roads that dip down! 
You curl your sun-spattered length along, 
 And your march is beaten into a song 
By the softly ringing hoofs of a horse 
 And the panting breath of the dogs I love. 
The pageant of Autumn follows its course 
 And the blue sky of Autumn laughs above. 

And the song and the country become as one, 
 I see it as music, I hear it as light; 
Prismatic and shimmering, trembling to tone, 
 The land of desire, my soul's delight. 
And always it beats in my listening ears 
 With the gentle thud of a horse's stride, 
With the swift-falling steps of many dogs, 
 Following, following at my side. 
O Roads that journey to fairyland! 
 Radiant highways whose vistas gleam, 
Leading me on, under crimson leaves, 
 To the opaline gates of the Castles of Dream.

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Teatro Bambino. Dublin, N. H.


How still it is! Sunshine itself here falls 
 In quiet shafts of light through the high trees 
Which, arching, make a roof above the walls 
 Changing from sun to shadow as each breeze 
Lingers a moment, charmed by the strange sight 
Of an Italian theatre, storied, seer 
 Of vague romance, and time's long history; 
Where tiers of grass-grown seats sprinkled with white, 
 Sweet-scented clover, form a broken sphere 
 Grouped round the stage in hushed expectancy. 

What sound is that which echoes through the wood? 
 Is it the reedy note of an oaten pipe? 
Perchance a minute more will see the brood 
 Of the shaggy forest god, and on his lip 
Will rest the rushes he is wont to play. 
 His train in woven baskets bear ripe fruit 
 And weave a dance with ropes of gray acorns, 
So light their touch the grasses scarcely sway 
 As they the measure tread to the lilting flute. 
 Alas! 't is only Fancy thus adorns. 

A cloud drifts idly over the shining sun. 
 How damp it seems, how silent, still, and strange! 
Surely 't was here some tragedy was done, 
 And here the chorus sang each coming change? 
Sure this is deep in some sweet, southern wood, 
 These are not pines, but cypress tall and dark; 
 That is no thrush which sings so rapturously, 
But the nightingale in his most passionate mood 
 Bursting his little heart with anguish. Hark! 
 The tread of sandalled feet comes noiselessly. 

The silence almost is a sound, and dreams 
 Take on the semblances of finite things; 
So potent is the spell that what but seems 
 Elsewhere, is lifted here on Fancy's wings. 
The little woodland theatre seems to wait, 
 All tremulous with hope and wistful joy, 
 For something that is sure to come at last, 
Some deep emotion, satisfying, great. 
 It grows a living presence, bold and shy, 
 Cradling the future in a glorious past. 

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The Road to Avignon


A Minstrel stands on a marble stair, 
Blown by the bright wind, debonair; 
Below lies the sea, a sapphire floor, 
Above on the terrace a turret door 
Frames a lady, listless and wan, 
But fair for the eye to rest upon. 
The minstrel plucks at his silver strings, 
And looking up to the lady, sings: -- 
   Down the road to Avignon, 
   The long, long road to Avignon, 
   Across the bridge to Avignon, 
   One morning in the spring. 

The octagon tower casts a shade 
Cool and gray like a cutlass blade; 
In sun-baked vines the cicalas spin, 
The little green lizards run out and in. 
A sail dips over the ocean's rim, 
And bubbles rise to the fountain's brim. 
The minstrel touches his silver strings, 
And gazing up to the lady, sings: -- 
   Down the road to Avignon, 
   The long, long road to Avignon, 
   Across the bridge to Avignon, 
   One morning in the spring. 

Slowly she walks to the balustrade, 
Idly notes how the blossoms fade 
In the sun's caress; then crosses where 
The shadow shelters a carven chair. 
Within its curve, supine she lies, 
And wearily closes her tired eyes. 
The minstrel beseeches his silver strings, 
And holding the lady spellbound, sings: -- 
   Down the road to Avignon, 
   The long, long road to Avignon, 
   Across the bridge to Avignon, 
   One morning in the spring. 

Clouds sail over the distant trees, 
Petals are shaken down by the breeze, 
They fall on the terrace tiles like snow; 
The sighing of waves sounds, far below. 
A humming-bird kisses the lips of a rose 
Then laden with honey and love he goes. 
The minstrel woos with his silver strings, 
And climbing up to the lady, sings: -- 
   Down the road to Avignon, 
   The long, long road to Avignon, 
   Across the bridge to Avignon, 
   One morning in the spring. 

Step by step, and he comes to her, 
Fearful lest she suddenly stir. 
Sunshine and silence, and each to each, 
The lute and his singing their only speech; 
He leans above her, her eyes unclose, 
The humming-bird enters another rose. 
The minstrel hushes his silver strings. 
Hark! The beating of humming-birds' wings! 
   Down the road to Avignon, 
   The long, long road to Avignon, 
   Across the bridge to Avignon, 
   One morning in the spring.

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New York at Night


A near horizon whose sharp jags 
 Cut brutally into a sky 
Of leaden heaviness, and crags 
Of houses lift their masonry 
 Ugly and foul, and chimneys lie 
And snort, outlined against the gray 
 Of lowhung cloud. I hear the sigh 
The goaded city gives, not day 
Nor night can ease her heart, her anguished labours stay. 

Below, straight streets, monotonous, 
 From north and south, from east and west, 
Stretch glittering; and luminous 
 Above, one tower tops the rest 
 And holds aloft man's constant quest: 
Time! Joyless emblem of the greed 
 Of millions, robber of the best 
Which earth can give, the vulgar creed 
Has seared upon the night its flaming ruthless screed. 

O Night! Whose soothing presence brings 
 The quiet shining of the stars. 
O Night! Whose cloak of darkness clings 
 So intimately close that scars 
 Are hid from our own eyes. Beggars 
By day, our wealth is having night 
 To burn our souls before altars 
Dim and tree-shadowed, where the light 
Is shed from a young moon, mysteriously bright. 

Where art thou hiding, where thy peace? 
 This is the hour, but thou art not. 
Will waking tumult never cease? 
 Hast thou thy votary forgot? 
 Nature forsakes this man-begot 
And festering wilderness, and now 
 The long still hours are here, no jot 
Of dear communing do I know; 
Instead the glaring, man-filled city groans below!

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A Fairy Tale


On winter nights beside the nursery fire 
We read the fairy tale, while glowing coals 
Builded its pictures. There before our eyes 
We saw the vaulted hall of traceried stone 
Uprear itself, the distant ceiling hung 
With pendent stalactites like frozen vines; 
And all along the walls at intervals, 
Curled upwards into pillars, roses climbed, 
And ramped and were confined, and clustered leaves 
Divided where there peered a laughing face. 
The foliage seemed to rustle in the wind, 
A silent murmur, carved in still, gray stone. 
High pointed windows pierced the southern wall 
Whence proud escutcheons flung prismatic fires 
To stain the tessellated marble floor 
With pools of red, and quivering green, and blue; 
And in the shade beyond the further door, 
Its sober squares of black and white were hid 
Beneath a restless, shuffling, wide-eyed mob 
Of lackeys and retainers come to view 
The Christening. 
A sudden blare of trumpets, and the throng 
About the entrance parted as the guests 
Filed singly in with rare and precious gifts. 
Our eager fancies noted all they brought, 
The glorious, unattainable delights! 
But always there was one unbidden guest 
Who cursed the child and left it bitterness. 

The fire falls asunder, all is changed, 
I am no more a child, and what I see 
Is not a fairy tale, but life, my life. 
The gifts are there, the many pleasant things: 
Health, wealth, long-settled friendships, with a name 
Which honors all who bear it, and the power 
Of making words obedient. This is much; 
But overshadowing all is still the curse, 
That never shall I be fulfilled by love! 
Along the parching highroad of the world 
No other soul shall bear mine company. 
Always shall I be teased with semblances, 
With cruel impostures, which I trust awhile 
Then dash to pieces, as a careless boy 
Flings a kaleidoscope, which shattering 
Strews all the ground about with coloured sherds. 
So I behold my visions on the ground 
No longer radiant, an ignoble heap 
Of broken, dusty glass. And so, unlit, 
Even by hope or faith, my dragging steps 
Force me forever through the passing days.

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Crowned


You came to me bearing bright roses, 
 Red like the wine of your heart; 
You twisted them into a garland 
 To set me aside from the mart. 
Red roses to crown me your lover, 
 And I walked aureoled and apart. 

Enslaved and encircled, I bore it, 
 Proud token of my gift to you. 
The petals waned paler, and shriveled, 
 And dropped; and the thorns started through. 
Bitter thorns to proclaim me your lover, 
 A diadem woven with rue. 

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To Elizabeth Ward Perkins


Dear Bessie, would my tired rhyme 
 Had force to rise from apathy, 
 And shaking off its lethargy 
Ring word-tones like a Christmas chime. 

But in my soul's high belfry, chill 
 The bitter wind of doubt has blown, 
 The summer swallows all have flown, 
The bells are frost-bound, mute and still. 

Upon the crumbling boards the snow 
 Has drifted deep, the clappers hang 
 Prismed with icicles, their clang 
Unheard since ages long ago. 

The rope I pull is stiff and cold, 
 My straining ears detect no sound 
 Except a sigh, as round and round 
The wind rocks through the timbers old. 

Below, I know the church is bright 
 With haloed tapers, warm with prayer; 
 But here I only feel the air 
Of icy centuries of night. 

Beneath my feet the snow is lit 
 And gemmed with colours, red, and blue, 
 Topaz, and green, where light falls through 
The saints that in the windows sit. 

Here darkness seems a spectred thing, 
 Voiceless and haunting, while the stars 
 Mock with a light of long dead years 
The ache of present suffering. 

Silent and winter-killed I stand, 
 No carol hymns my debt to you; 
 But take this frozen thought in lieu, 
And thaw its music in your hand. 

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The Promise of the Morning Star


Thou father of the children of my brain 
 By thee engendered in my willing heart, 
 How can I thank thee for this gift of art 
Poured out so lavishly, and not in vain. 

What thou created never more can die, 
 Thy fructifying power lives in me 
 And I conceive, knowing it is by thee, 
Dear other parent of my poetry! 

For I was but a shadow with a name, 
 Perhaps by now the very name's forgot; 
 So strange is Fate that it has been my lot 
To learn through thee the presence of that aim 

Which evermore must guide me. All unknown, 
 By me unguessed, by thee not even dreamed, 
 A tree has blossomed in a night that seemed 
Of stubborn, barren wood. For thou hast sown 

This seed of beauty in a ground of truth. 
 Humbly I dedicate myself, and yet 
 I tremble with a sudden fear to set 
New music ringing through my fading youth.

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J.K. Huysmans


A flickering glimmer through a window-pane, 
A dim red glare through mud bespattered glass, 
Cleaving a path between blown walls of sleet 
Across uneven pavements sunk in slime 
To scatter and then quench itself in mist. 
And struggling, slipping, often rudely hurled 
Against the jutting angle of a wall, 
And cursed, and reeled against, and flung aside 
By drunken brawlers as they shuffled past, 
A man was groping to what seemed a light. 
His eyelids burnt and quivered with the strain 
Of looking, and against his temples beat 
The all enshrouding, suffocating dark. 
He stumbled, lurched, and struck against a door 
That opened, and a howl of obscene mirth 
Grated his senses, wallowing on the floor 
Lay men, and dogs and women in the dirt. 
He sickened, loathing it, and as he gazed 
The candle guttered, flared, and then went out. 

Through travail of ignoble midnight streets 
He came at last to shelter in a porch 
Where gothic saints and warriors made a shield 
To cover him, and tortured gargoyles spat 
One long continuous stream of silver rain 
That clattered down from myriad roofs and spires 
Into a darkness, loud with rushing sound 
Of water falling, gurgling as it fell, 
But always thickly dark. Then as he leaned 
Unconscious where, the great oak door blew back 
And cast him, bruised and dripping, in the church. 
His eyes from long sojourning in the night 
Were blinded now as by some glorious sun; 
He slowly crawled toward the altar steps. 
He could not think, for heavy in his ears 
An organ boomed majestic harmonies; 
He only knew that what he saw was light! 
He bowed himself before a cross of flame 
And shut his eyes in fear lest it should fade. 

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March Evening


Blue through the window burns the twilight; 
 Heavy, through trees, blows the warm south wind. 
Glistening, against the chill, gray sky light, 
 Wet, black branches are barred and entwined. 

Sodden and spongy, the scarce-green grass plot 
 Dents into pools where a foot has been. 
Puddles lie spilt in the road a mass, not 
 Of water, but steel, with its cold, hard sheen. 

Faint fades the fire on the hearth, its embers 
 Scattering wide at a stronger gust. 
Above, the old weathercock groans, but remembers 
 Creaking, to turn, in its centuried rust. 

Dying, forlorn, in dreary sorrow, 
 Wrapping the mists round her withering form, 
Day sinks down; and in darkness to-morrow 
 Travails to birth in the womb of the storm. 




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Update: 21-03-2016.